Supply Spotlight: Specialty Stabilizer

We just came back from the DAX Show in Minneapolis.   While we were at the show,  as usual,  we fielded quite a few questions about stabilizer.  It seems that stabilizer is one of the things about embroidery that can be confusing for those who are just starting out,  or for those who haven’t had much exposure to the variety of specialized stabilizers that are available.  Since everyone who reads this blog wasn’t able to be at the show and hear our explanations there,  I figured I’d share the information here as well.

First,  let’s define what a specialty stabilizer is.   In general,  a specialty stabilizer is one that is developed for a particular type of embroidery,  to perform a particular function or to work with a particular type of fabric or embroiderable good.  A specialty stabilizer is often used because it will increase the quality of the finished embroidery in some way.

There are a variety of specialty stabilizers available,  and covering each one in depth would result in a blog post that was miles long,  so I’m just going to try and give you an overview of the common options and the reasons why they are used.

Poly Mesh  Poly mesh stabilizer is a light weight, textured stabilizer that is great for t-shirts and light weight fabrics.  The texture allows for the support of a large number of stitches,  but the light weight ensures that the garment or the embroidered design won’t be distorted by a large wad of backing.

Fusible Poly MeshFusible poly mesh is the same material as regular poly mesh,  with the same light weight feel and the same texture.   The difference is that fusible,  as the name implies,  can be fused,  with heat,  to the back of a garment.  Fusible is useful for infant or children’s clothing, covering embroidery that might otherwise scratch delicate skin.   It can also be used with performance wear,  to stabilize and help eliminate the stretch in these types of fabrics.

AdhesiveAdhesive backing is coated with an adhesive which is covered with a release paper.  This type of backing can be hooped,  after which the release paper is scored,  exposing the adhesive,  and allowing for the securing of small items which couldn’t otherwise be hooped,  like patches or socks.  Adhesive backing can also be another option for performance wear,  functioning as a barrier against the stretchiness of the material being embroidered.

Water SolubleWater soluble stabilizer can be a backing or a topping.  As a topping,  water soluble is used on top of fabrics that have a pile.  It is commonly used on fleece or towels and works to keep the stitches from sinking into the pile and disappearing.   Another type of water soluble,  called Badgemaster, is thicker and used for making free standing lace.

Cutaway/Washaway – Another option for free standing lace is a cutaway/washaway backing.  This type of stabilizer can be used to create free standing lace ornaments,  as it can be embroidered and then the excess can be dissolved away.   Cutaway/washaway can also be a good option for when the back of an embroidered item, like a monogrammed towel, for instance,  might be seen.  The excess stabilizer will wash away over time,  leaving the back of the embroidery tidy.

Cap Backing – Hats are a popular item with many embroiderers,  and cap backing makes embroidering a hat easier.  This type of backing is usually 2.5 to 3.0 ounces,  and is often offered in smaller sizes like 4 x 7.  Cap backing is a stiff, paperlike tearaway,  which tears cleanly, and is stiff enough to support stitch heavy logos.

Some embroiderers will tell you that specialty stabilizers aren’t necessary,  that a simple cutaway or tearaway will get the job done in almost any situation,  and they wouldn’t be wrong.  What specialty stabilizers offer is the ability not just to get the job done,  but to get it done in a way that works with the fabric and creates a finished design that is really a work of art.

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Featured Friday: The St. Patrick’s Day Edition

First of all,  Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone.   Are you all wearing your green and planning pub crawls later in the day?  Second,  it’s been a while since I’ve done a Featured Friday post,  so I thought I’d go over what Featured Friday is for those who may be new to the concept.   On Featured Friday,  I curate a list of blog posts or other items that I think will be helpful to people in the industries that EnMart serves.   It’s really just a list of stuff I think those who read this blog will find interesting and/or helpful.   Simple as that.

First up,  from Eileen’s Machine Embroidery Blog,  we have instructions on correcting a monogram mistake.  If you embroidered “SLT” and it’s really supposed to be “SLP” – this is a post you need to read.   Eileen leads you step by step through the correction process.  Even if you use a different software than she does,  the tips should still be helpful.

Second on the list is an examination of what Stahls’ calls 12 hot trends for 2017.  While it appears these trends are primarily dealing with vinyl,  most of what they talk about could be translated to other decoration mediums.  Mixing fonts,  adding shine with metallics and putting logos in non-standard placements are all trends that can be created using almost any decoration technique.  Definitely a lot to think about in this post.

Third at bat is an interesting post from Retail Minded about how to handle political divisions in the workplace.  The last election was contentious and people on both sides have strong views.   This post covers how to deal with people expressing those views in their day to day work lives.   It’s a very relevant post right now,  and the tips it gives can help keep your shop stress fee,  at least when it comes to political topics.

Fourth on the docket,  for the quilters among us,  a story of trying something new,  designers who say “draw your own” and buying fabric that you don’t remember buying.  I love the description of having the memory of buying one fabric and being shocked when the other fabric is received.   I think that’s a common thing for a lot of quilters,  along with fixating on finding just the right fabric to create what you want to create.   I’m sure many quilters will find what this post describes familiar.

Finally,  from Seth Godin,  we have a post about building your organization from both the top and the bottom.  I love this post because of what it says about leadership and about how much attitude matters when building a team or a workforce.   There are also some great tips for how to lead and how to create an organization that treats the people on the lowest rungs of the company as the foundation,  not disposable.   This is definitely worth a read.

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Wisdom Wednesday: Pondering Price

money-questions-198x300“How do I price this job?”

“How would you veterans price this job?”

“What would you charge to do this?”

The questions that are asked may differ,  but the intent behind them is the same,  someone please tell me how to price this stuff.  Make me feel that the price I want to charge is reasonable and correct.   Give me some guidance on how I should be pricing my work.  Let me know that what I do is valuable and worth what I want to ask people to pay for it.

We all know that setting a price for something can be difficult.  The dictionary defines price as “the sum or amount of money or its equivalent for which anything is bought, sold, or offered for sale”  which sounds pretty simple.   You want an embroidered hoodie.  I tell you the hoodie, decorated as you wish,  is $20.  You give me $20,  I give you the hoodie.  An easy transaction, right?

In reality,  it’s anything but easy.   First, you have the fact that decoration work is creative work, and creative work has, historically, been undervalued.  Second,  you have the fact that decoration businesses can range from a one head machine run out of a home to a company with multiple locations and hundreds of heads,  with each business having different income needs and pricing requirements. Third,  you have customers who are looking to get the best value for their money, and may have unrealistic expectations of what your work should cost.  Add in the problem of determining the value of one’s own work, let alone telling other people what you think that value to be,  and you end up with wildly fluctuating price scales,  and good decorators doing quality work who most likely aren’t making nearly what they should.

So, how do we reverse this trend?

Reversing the trend,  in my opinion,  comes down to playing the twin roles of educator and advocate.  Education starts with your company’s customers and,  really, continues anywhere your work is discussed either verbally or in writing.   The goal is to inform your customers and potential customers about what it costs to make the items you make,  cost not only in actual dollars,  but also in time and training.  Your work should always be presented as something done by a skilled craftsperson,  someone who has dedicated time and effort to learning their craft and who should be paid accordingly.     The more the general public understands what goes into the work that is being done,  the more likely it is that they will value the work more,  and expect to pay a higher price for it.

Advocacy also starts at home,  or in your shop,  and extends out to the rest of the world.   Being an advocate for the decoration community means charging a fair price for your work,  charging artificially low prices depresses the rates that all decorators can charge, and also teaches the marketplace to expect quality, painstaking work for mere pennies.   Advocacy also extends to how you talk about what you do.   Emphasize the skills involved and the work it takes to learn the craft.  Speak out when you hear or see people complaining about the price of a decorated garment,  explaining why the cost that is being charged is fair.   Be aware of those who will try to get you to do work for exposure,  as exposure can’t pay the mortgage or keep the lights on.  Make it a point to call out the people who underestimate the value of what we,  as an industry, do,  and keep pushing for the respect,  and the fair pricing structure that the industry deserves.

Pricing is always going to be a controversial issue.  A fair price for you might not seem like a fair price to me; there will always be differences in how things are priced by different decorators,  just as there are differences in where and how individual decorators do their work.   The thing to remember is that a rising tide lifts all boats,  and doing a little pricing research in your market before setting prices can help assure that every decorator gets a fair price for the work that they do.

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Marketing Monday: Building Trust with Social Media

trust-group-of-people-1940x900_35342Once upon a time,  7 years ago now,  as a matter of fact,  I wrote a post called “Sell, Sell = Bye, Bye” which talked about the notion that doing nothing but selling on a company social media feed would drive customers away instead of inspire them to buy.   The whole premise behind the post was to drive home the idea that becoming part of the community and building trust should be the goal,  not moving product.  While I think my point is still valid,  I also understand that building trust can be a complicated and drawn out endeavor, and that some companies may not be sure how to go about creating social media accounts that build trust.   Today’s Marketing Monday post details some ways that can be accomplished.

Method 1:  Show off completed work – Showing off work that is completed serves a couple of purposes.   First,  it shows what your company can do,  spotlights your creativity,  and presents you as a business that produces.  Second,  it can serve as an inspiration for other customers who might be looking for similar work.  Third,  it,  without the words ever being said,  lets prospective customers know that your work is being purchased,  which means that people are trusting you with their ideas and their money.

Method 2:  Ask for questions – Encourage your customers to post comments or to message you asking for ideas or thoughts on how a specific job could be done.  Customers may also ask questions about particular supplies or types of garments.   The idea is to position your company as an expert,  and to get customers accustomed to coming to you when they want solid information and helpful answers.   This technique is definitely about building trust.   Studies have shown that customers are much more likely to do business with companies and people that have demonstrated they are trustworthy.   Providing unbiased,  helpful information is one way to do that.

Method 3:  Ask for reviews – Reviews can come through the mechanism that is used by an individual social media platform to allow and encourage reviews.  Those are helpful and often referenced by potential customers.   The other option for reviews is to ask customers who are pleased to post on their social media feed,  so you can share the post on yours,  or to post on your feed directly.   The posts don’t have to be elaborate,  a simple “Thanks XYZ Company!  My daughter loves her new shirt” accompanied by a picture of said daughter wearing the shirt and a big grin is more than enough.

Method 4:  Ask for referrals – Referrals are all about trust.   Someone,  a current customer of yours,  recommends you to a friend or business associate who needs the kind of work you do.   The friend/business associate trusts the person who made the recommendation and therefore trusts you by association.  Some companies will solicit referrals by offering a discount on the next order of the person/company that made the referral.  That is a valid technique,  just make sure the referral actually pans out into a quality customer before rewarding the company that made the referral.

Method 5:  Share a view behind the curtain – On the EnMart Facebook page,  I sometimes talk about the weather,  or share a picture of the company owner’s dog doing something funny.   Sometimes we’ll share video of a piece of equipment running,  or talk a bit about why use a particular product or work with a particular company.   You don’t have to share trade secrets,  and you don’t have to get personal,  but letting customers have a little glimpse into your process and how your company operates can help them to trust you and your company more.

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Customer Spotlight: Black Duck Inc.

cs_blackduckincName:  Erich Campbell

Business:   Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing

Anyone who knows anything about machine embroidery probably knows about Erich Campbell and Black Duck Inc.  He is the digitizing guru who creates the fabulous works of art for which Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing is known, as well a sharing his expertise at www.erichcampbell.com.   He writes for Printwear Magazine and for Mr. X-Stitch.  Erich is a huge advocate for the industry and always willing to share his knowledge and abilities to help others.   I’m honored that he took a bit of time from his busy life to answer some questions about the work he does,  the company for which he does that work, and why he does business with EnMart.

Please describe your work.

EC:  I am primarily an embroidery digitizer,  but our company does everything from small to large scale screen printing on manuals and automatics,  all manner of embroidery,  heat-printing, sign-making, sublimation and digital transfers, all in house and with our own art staff.

What do you like best about what you do?

EC: Creating solutions that delight people; creative problem solving is satisfying in itself,  but being able to do so in a way that allows us to both exercise our love of commercial art and design and supports people in our local community makes our work an absolute joy.  We have customers tell us that we are seen as the shop to seek out if no other shop can handle your work or is willing to try.   We are artists, experimenters, and we work well together.

What is the biggest challenge you face in doing your work?

EC: Doing the work that we want to do and are good at doing and making sure to keep it profitable and responsive;  probably the hardest thing to do is pull away from the work of production to make sure our business is current,  keeping up with technology and promoting itself to the right audience.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your industry as a whole?

EC: It’s a massive cultural shift that’s causing challenges for all of us – the shift toward individual personalization is difficult, but doable, whereas the continuous pressure to deliver more quickly, almost instantly, and to produce a better product with a high-quality decoration at a commodity price can be tough.

Were you always creative?  Did you make things as a child?

EC: I would say that I come from a long family history of makers – I wasn’t always enamored of the visual arts, though.   I can draw passably well,  but I didn’t while away my time drawing when I was young.  I did, however, carve wood,  build things,  play with construction toys,  work on machine and cars with my mechanic father,  help my mother who at times worked as a seamstress,  and last,  but certainly not least,  I was always a writer.  Language was my first creative venture, and remains a favorite outlet to this day.

What one tip would you give people starting out in your field?

EC:  Be ready to fail and forgive yourself,  then learn to control your variables and test.  You will destroy a garment.   You will have to sample things more than once, and you will make mistakes.  Accept it,  then learn by degrees to let it go.  Analyze your failures and take what you’ve learned to heart; measure everything, and apply what you learn.  You will grow by leaps and bounds once you do; you will be a sponge at first, absorbing everything,  but it’s in the experimentation and doing that it will all solidify and become real.

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If you could travel back to when you started in this industry,  what piece of advice would you give yourself?

EC: Never get comfortable.  Try more, execute faster,  and be less conservative with your ideas.  An idea is nothing until it is executed, and there is rarely a “perfect” time to try.  Get more things to market and give them their season; you never know what might stick.

What is your favorite leisure time activity?

EC: That’s a tough one;  I’m a big movie watcher and reader,  but I also love hiking, drawing and teaching where I can.  When you do what you love,  leisure and work sometimes bleed together,  even when they are tiring or difficult.   In truth,  I do work quite a lot though.  I often joke that there’s just a break between my first shift (work at Black Duck) and my second shift (writing and teaching for the industry).

Why do you buy from/work with EnMart?

EC:  EnMart has tested quality product and the best customer service;  I’ve never had a problem ordering by any method of contact, and I can always trust the products that I ordered will come in,  as ordered,  on time.   EnMart is reliable and saves me time.

What EnMart products do you use most?

EC: Sublimation inks and papers, blank patches, and Q-104/102 water soluble topping and backing.

Why do you use these products?

EC: EnMart has always been our sublimation partner,  and they carry top quality Sawgrass products as well as their own tested brand of transfer paper;  their added service and support is fantastic and makes the difference.   Q-102 is great for making our own in-house custom shaped emblems,  so it’s a natural fit for us as well.

You can find Erich and Black Duck Inc.  on the following social media sites:

Facebook

Twitter

Google+

Pinterest

Instagram

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Happy New Year!

happy-new-year

 

EnMart will be closed Monday,  January 2, 2017  in honor of the New Year.   We wish all our friends and customers only the best for 2017! 

Time Travel Tuesday: What’s Ahead for 2017

time-travel-2One of the fun things about time travel is the fact that it goes in both directions.   Today I thought we’d take a moment to look at some things that are coming up in 2017.   Here’s some of what the future holds for EnMart.

New Products – We are preparing to introduce a new line of products at the Creativation Show in Phoenix in January.   We’re in booth #619.   If you’re at the show,  stop by and see what EnMart and Iris Thread have to offer!

New Look for the Website – EnMart is working on a redesign of our website for 2017.  Some of the redesign will be appearance related,  some will be functionality related.   We’re excited about making our website easier to use and creating a look that reflects the EnMart experience.

We’ll be Traveling – Currently our list of scheduled trade shows for 2017 includes the VDTA Show and all three DAX Shows as well as the Creativation Show listed above.   At the DAX Shows,  as usual, we’ll have a wide variety of products for sale in our booth.   We look forward to seeing everyone at these shows.

Educational Efforts –  We’ve scouted a great location we think will be useful for some quilting videos.   There are plans in the works to do some series posts on this blog,  discussing things like backing or types of thread.  We have some other ideas as well,  so it should be an exciting and educational year.

Mostly,  we’re just excited about the plans we have for the upcoming year, and all the great things we’re going to do.   We’re also very grateful to those of you who have supported us in 2016.   Whether it was stopping by our booth at a trade show,  purchasing something from our website,  leaving us a review on our website or on Facebook,  or simply taking a moment to let us know that you appreciate what we do,  we’re glad you’ve spent a bit of your time with EnMart.   Thank you.

 

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Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah

christmas2010wallpapers16

EnMart will be closed on Monday, December 26 in honor of Christmas.   We will re-open on Tuesday, December 27.   We wish all our clients and friends a happy and joyous holiday!

Time Travel Tuesday: Which Thread is Best

extra-35-picAmong the eternal questions that plague the machine embroidery community,  the question of which thread is best is probably the one heard most often.  Sometimes the question involves what type of thread works best,  and sometimes it centers more on which brand of thread is best,  but the answer required always centers around a comparison and a qualification,  something has to come out on top as “the best”.

A couple decades ago,  the answer to the which thread is best question,  at least when it came to type of thread,  would have been rayon.  Made from regenerated cellulose,  rayon was the thread of choice for a lot of embroiderers back in the day.   It had great shine and made embroidery pop,  but it wasn’t necessarily a strong thread,  or a washfast one.  Still, for a long time,  it was the only game in town.

Polyester,  in the time when rayon was king,  was primarily a matte thread,  dull and not considered a show piece thread.  Over time, though, manufacturers,  like Hilos Iris,  started working on creating a polyester thread with shine.  They also worked on strength and durability,  using trilobal fibers to make the thread both stronger and shinier.  The result was a polyester thread that could beat rayon at its own game,  a thread that equaled rayon in shine,  but exceeded it in colorfastness,  washfastness and strength.   While there are still die hard rayon users in the embroidery world,  a lot of embroiderers have switched to polyester.

Once an embroiderer settled on what type of thread to use,  the next question to be answered was which brand was best.   As with the rayon/polyester debate,  the choices for a brand of thread started out narrower and expanded over the years.  Madeira and Robinson Anton are brands that have been around for a quite a while.  American and Efird has been around for over 100 years.  Coats and Clark, in one incarnation or another,  has been around for quite a while as well.

As time went on,  new brands entered the market place.   Iris thread,  a trilobal polyester was introduced to the American market in 2007.  Fil-Tec introduced their Glide thread.   Companies started bringing in and selling cheaper thread from the Pacific Rim.  Suddenly,  embroiderers were spoiled for choice.  The question about which thread was best was heard more and more often.

The simple answer to the question of what thread is best is this:  the best thread is the thread that works most efficiently for you.  Different threads will sew out differently depending on what machine is being used.   The fabric being sewn, and how the design is digitized can also have an impact on how well a thread works.  The durability, colorfastness and washfastness of the thread should also be considered.   Thread breaks that slow down productions,  or colors that run can lead to lost business and lost time.

The biggest mistake embroiderers make,  in my opinion,  when considering which thread is best for them is placing price at the top of the list of things to consider.  Many shops may operate on strict budgets and price will need to be factored into the purchasing decision,  but placing price before how the thread sews out,  or giving price more weight than the durability of the thread, or settling for a thread that isn’t colorfast because it’s a thread that’s cheap accomplishes exactly the opposite of what’s intended.  Not all cheap thread is bad thread,  and not all expensive thread is great thread,  but the likelihood that a thread that costs more will also have more time, effort and quality materials in its construction should not be ignored.

One way to gather data for your decision about which thread is best for you without breaking your budget is to ask the thread manufacturer for a sample you can test.   Most manufacturers or distributors will be happy to send out a sample.   If you’d like a sample of Iris thread,  please contact us and we’ll be happy to get one out to you.

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How to: Order from EnMart

order-onlineIt occurred to me the other day that we put tools in place to make it easier for our customers to order and to take advantage of pricing levels and other incentives,  but what we think is easier might not appear the same way to those who are buying from us.   So,  I started looking at the site through the eyes of a customer,  and trying to figure out,  if I were new to the site,  what I could grasp easily and what might be harder to figure out.  Once I had my list,  I decided to put a blog post together,  to help those of you who buy from us get the most of your EnMart experience.

Wholesale Pricing:  Wholesale pricing is available to those businesses that have a tax i.d. number and who apply for a wholesale account.   If you do not apply and your account is not set up for wholesale pricing,  you will not see those prices nor receive them at checkout.  To apply for a business log-in,  you can click the “I Need A Business Log-in” button on the home page,  or click the “Wholesale” button in the top menu on any other page of the site.   You must submit your tax i.d. number to be considered for wholesale pricing.  Once your application is received,  it generally is approved quickly.   You will be notified by e-mail when your wholesale account is activated.   To see wholesale pricing,  make sure you log-in before you shop.

Pricing Levels: There are some products which only have one tier of pricing,  which is wholesale pricing.   Often this is because it is a product which wouldn’t interest the general public,  is one that can’t be seen by the general public,  or is a product that has an industry wide or manufacturer mandated price that we need to meet.  Things like thread,   backingblank patches and bobbins do have both public and wholesale pricing,  so having a wholesale log-in if you’re qualified for one is a good option.

Shipment Times: Our goal is always to ship every order as quickly as we can.  Most orders,  if they contain goods we can simply pull off a shelf will ship same day,  if placed before 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.  Things that need to be made,  like blank patches,  have longer lead times for shipping.  When there is a lead time,  it will be noted on the page for the item.   Order shipment speed may also be impacted by the volume of orders received.

Sales Tax: By law,  EnMart is required to charge sales tax in Michigan,  Illinois,  California,  Nevada,  Georgia and New Jersey.  When someone applies for a business log-in,  if they are in one of those states,  the approval e-mail will also contain an attached form,  which must be completed and submitted back to EnMart for an account to be made tax exempt.   If the form is not completed and on file,  we must charge sales tax.

If you ever have questions about anything pertaining to EnMart,  you can always feel free to contact us. We want your shopping experience with EnMart to be a good one,  so feel free to reach out if you need any assistance.

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